Blackwell Publishing

Sexual reproduction


In sexual reproduction, a new organism is formed by the fusion of two gametes. It is to be contrasted with asexual reproduction, in which females produce offspring without any male contribution; the female's gametes develop directly into female offspring.

• In sexual reproduction, the sex cells - eggs and sperm or pollen - are produced by a reduction division and the gametic fusion restores the original chromosome complement.

• In asexual reproduction, there is either no reduction division (apomixis) or the product cells of one individual's reduction division fuse together again (automixis);

It is easy for a mutation to convert meiosis into mitosis, and thus a sexually reproducing into an asexually reproducing female.

If the loss of sex would be relatively easy, why is sex maintained?

Although some species do reproduce asexually, the majority are sexual. So there is probably a selective advantage to sex in most species. The advantage, moreover, must be large, because it has to over come an automatic two-fold cost of sex, relative to asexual reproduction.

The dandelion is an interesting case: it reproduces asexually and yet flowers and releases pollen. Some biologists think that it has recently switched from a sexual to an asexual form of reproduction.

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